Walker Art Center Executive Director to Step Down

Olga Viso to leave the Walker

"She led the organization through a major capital campaign to fund the vision and re-design of our entire campus, including the new Minneapolis Sculpture Garden".

"I think Olga's legacy will be tied to the success of the Sculpture Garden and the Walker campus", Fionn Meade, the Walker's former senior curator and artistic director, said in an interview.

During her time at the Walker, Viso has focused on increasing diversity, both on staff and in the shows she helped bring to the museum; the diversity of the Walker's Board increased from five- to 20-percent. Over 5,000 artworks entered the Walker Art Center's collection in her time there, and the museum's endowment grew.

The Walker under Viso organized a number of popular exhibitions, including "Hippie Modernism", "International Pop" and "Merce Cunningham: Common Time". What may well be remembered as her signature exhibition and spectacular farewell opened last Saturday: "Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950".

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"In addition, she championed experimental and underrepresented artists throughout her tenure, while bringing many noteworthy exhibitions to the Walker, such as Merce Cunningham: Common Time, International Pop, and groundbreaking exhibitions like Adios Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950, one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of Cuban art to be organized in the United States in decades and now on view". Several curators and department heads left for other positions, and one curator resigned for "personal reasons".

Ms. Viso faced difficulties within the museum as well, as two dozen staff members had departed within the previous year, out of a staff of just under 120. A protest delayed the garden's scheduled June reopening, and the Walker eventually agreed to dismantle the sculpture after talks with Dakota elders. The structure was meant to evoke gallows throughout American history, including those used to execute 38 Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minn., in 1862, and local Native American communities deemed it disrespectful. When word got out that what looked like a big piece of playground equipment was something far darker - and had been built on Dakota land - a media firestorm erupted. (Courtesy of the Walker Arts Center). Viso said, "It has been a privilege to lead this venerable contemporary arts institution the last 10 years ..."

The board has established an Office of the Executive Director and will form a search committee.

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